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Exhibition dedicated to the relationship between art, astronomy and space research opens in San Jose
Virus Americanus XII, 2002.
SAN JOSE, CA.- MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana presents COSMOS CODEX, a commissioned, site-specific work by artist Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL. This is MACLA’s first art exhibition dedicated to the relationship between art, astronomy and space research, the artist’s first solo show in California and the first time he has publicly exhibited sculptural objects.

Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL (VSU) is primarily known for large-scale murals, paintings, drawings, and sound recordings. He sources American and Russian spaceflight programs, astronomy, and aerospace architecture to create commissioned, studio-based and public artworks for museums, galleries, private and public spaces.

A major aspect of the exhibition is VSU’s dialogue with scientists and other subject matter experts at the NASA Ames Research Center to gather information directly informing the artworks in the exhibition. Vargas-Suarez is exploring concepts for retrieving materials from Mars, asteroids and other orbiting bodies in our solar system with the intention of allowing artists, architects and designers access to these materials to expand and explore possibilities not available to them with traditional materials available here on Earth. Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, who curated the exhibition and is MACLA’s Senior Curator and Associate Director, says, “VSU’s work bridges space research and astronomy through art and makes it intriguing and accessible to people who have otherwise not been exposed to these new images and new vocabularies that are our contemporary and future language.”

The exhibition installation in MACLA’s gallery will be set up as a mock “clean room,” or spacecraft processing facility, typically found at NASA operations centers. The installation will include hand-intervened new digital prints, murals, paintings, sculptural objects, and a video produced in collaboration with artist Barbora Bereznakova.

MACLA, positioned in Silicon Valley, a fertile area for art, science, and innovation, is the ideal setting for COSMOS CODEX. San José in particular is a place where artists, scientists, thinkers, and other creative minds can find ways in which science can inform art and vice-versa. This is an opportunity for both disciplines to come together to create unique projects which engage a broad community of artists, scientists, students, and others to discuss questions which both art and science ask: what is our place in the universe? How do we conceptualize, idealize, or represent our position here? How can art present scientific data in compelling ways and how can science be a source of inspiration for artists?

Further, this exhibition presents an exciting educational opportunity for the hundreds of middle school and high school-aged students which MACLA serves every year. MACLA, a San José- based institution that uses art and related disciplines for community-building and youth education, hopes that the exhibition and the artist’s residency will encourage their students to engage with art and science in a different and meaningful way. VSU, who studied both astronomy and art history in college and himself has been inspired by the data collected by space/research entities, including NASA, is an inspiration for Latino youth who may be considering studies and careers in the arts and sciences. Executive Director Anjee Helstrup- Alvarez says, “Rafael’s exhibition is timely in many ways, with the national push for students to pursue the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), which is even more critical for Latino and other minority youth given rapidly changing demographics in California. The latest developments in space exploration bring STEM applications to life. This exhibition fits nicely at the intersection of MACLA’s visual arts and youth education programs, and we hope that everyone who comes to see it finds those connections between art and technology to learn something new and interesting.”

Vargas-Suarez UNIVERSAL is an artist based in New York. He was born in Mexico City and raised in the Houston suburb of Clear Lake City adjacent to the NASA Johnson Space Center. He studied astronomy and art history at the University of Texas at Austin and moved to New York City in 1997. He is primarily known for large-scale murals, paintings, drawings, and sound recordings. He sources American and Russian spaceflight programs, astronomy, and aerospace architecture to create commissioned, studio-based and public artworks for museums, galleries, private and public spaces. VSU has conducted post-studio research at NASA Ames Research Center; Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico; Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL; Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Korolyov (Moscow); and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

His writings have been published by Right Brain Words, New York; Edizioni Charta, Milano; and, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. His work are in the following selected collections: The Museum of Modern Art Library; Whitney Museum of American Art; El Museo del Barrio; Queens Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; RISD Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art, MD; Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin,TX; Palazzo delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea, Siena, Italy; Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno (CAAM),; Winzavod Contemporary Art Centre, Moscow; and, the UBS Art Collection.



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